Monday, May 06, 2013

Picking A Novel Name For A Novel Virus


Photo Credit NIAID


# 7238


The novel coronavirus that appeared just over a year ago on the Arabian peninsula has gone by many names, none of which have particularly satisfactory, or have been universally adopted.


Originally dubbed  betacoronavirus 2c EMC2012, the World Health Organization has opted for easier to type nCoV, while the CDC has used the long form `novel coronavirus’. Other names in use have included HCoV-EMC/2012, NCoV, HCoV, and HCoV-EMC.


The trouble with calling it `novel coronavirus’ or nCoV is that there are other, equally novel coronaviruses out there, and we could someday have to deal with two of them at the same time. 


Today Martin Enserink writing for Science Insider, has news of a new name for this virus, chosen by a group of international experts, that will hopefully end the confusion.


Their solution?  Call it Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).  Or just MERS.



International Group Settles on Name for New Coronavirus

by Martin Enserink on 6 May 2013, 1:05 PM 

New MERS cases. The MERS coronavirus. Or—if things turn really bad—the MERS pandemic. That's how the world may soon be talking about the new virus that surfaced in the Arabian Peninsula last summer and that has been rattling health experts since. In a move that may end more than 7 months of confusion, an international group of scientists and public health officials will soon recommend that the new virus be called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).


The group plans to publish a paper recommending the new name, says Raoul de Groot, a veterinary virologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who has coordinated the effort. De Groot chairs the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV), which took the initiative to find a new, widely accepted name. The study group has no power to enforce use of the name, however; it will be up to researchers to decide whether to adopt the moniker.

(Continue . . .)


MERS does has the virtue of being easier to type and pronounce than hCoV-EMC, which has been used by many researchers, while being more specific than the generic nCoV used by WHO.


While I’m willing to adopt it, it remains to be seen what kind of reaction this new name will get in the media, with public health organizations, and among researchers.


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